The construction of the Veterans Memorial bridge in the late 1960’s and the Taylor Falls Replacement bridge in the early 1970’s completely altered the landscape of and virtually ‘wiped out’ what many Hudson residents knew of as the business center of Hudson. This week we look at how this construction affected one of Hudson’s landmarks, the 20th Century Store.
The 20th Century Building “at the bridge” on the corner of Ferry and Webster Streets dated to 1877. Mr. Elisha Z. Martin purchased the property (land and building) about 1876. Shortly after that the building was destroyed by fire and he rebuilt it the following year. After he passed in 1879, Mrs Martin married a Mr Sherman from Connecticut. Together they continued to make changes and improvements to the building.This site has a long history of being occupied by a grocery or general store. At the time of the fire in 1876 it was the location of Nathan Webster’s store, and following reconstruction his business returned and continued until about 1892. George Andrews succeeded Mr. Webster and continued the business until his death in 1903. Mr Elijah Reed ran the business for about 1 year after which Mr Charles Daniels in partnership with Charles B. Gilbert took it over and continued until about 1925.
Changes occurred through the years. By 1928 it was owned by Mrs. Jennie Connell and known as the Connell Block. The left side was washed away during the 1936 flood. The livery and barn were removed from the right side and remodeled into a grocery store. As early as 1926 the right side of the Connell Block was home to Sal’s Cash Market; with Harry Salvail as proprietor. By 1940 this was the location of the 20th Century Store and building which was owned by Phil Lamoy of Nashua.
The problem of adequate and safe travel over the Merrimack River between Hudson and Nashua came to a head in 1960. Hudson’s population was approaching 6,000 and expected to be near 11,000 by 1970! A comparable increase in Nashua’s growth was also expected. The State of New Hampshire commissioned the consulting engineering firm of Bruce Campbell of Boston to study the already heavy traffic situation and make recommendations. The resulting report, published at the end of 1960, kicked off a controversy which would span more than 10 years. This report made two recommendations. The first that a new, two lane bridge be built about 350 feet north of the Taylor Falls Bridge. This bridge would be used for traffic traveling westward into Nashua. The concrete Taylor Falls bridge would be retained for eastward bound traffic from Nashua. The second recommendation was that in the 1975-1980 time frame a circumferential belt highway be built be built to further ease the flow of traffic!!
This report stimulated much discussion between the two communities and the state. We could not agree on where to place the new bridge and the corresponding access roads. The initial plan was rejected. Another idea was a new span to the south, crossing the river about where the B+M bridge abutments exist. A third was to place the new bridge just north of the Taylor Falls bridge with traffic ovals on each side of the bridge for access/egress. 1966 became the year of compromise.
In March 1967 voters of Hudson agreed on a plan. This was followed by agreement by the Board of Aldermen in Nashua. By October 1967 the State issued this map showing the proposed bridge and approaches at Taylor’s Falls between Nashua and Hudson as shown. Access to the proposed bridge would go through the 20th Century Building and eliminate part of Webster Street. This plan did include a rotary on the Hudson side; which was later eliminated with plans to extend Chase Street from School Street to Ferry. With all of these discussions taking so long to resolve; traffic flow on the existing concrete bridge was increasing and the bridge was deteriorating.
In September 1968 it became necessary to make repairs to the concrete bridge to shore it up and prolong it’s life. The bridge was closed to vehicular traffic. Foot traffic (and bicycle) were permitted. Vehicle traffic was detoured to the bridge at Tyngsborough or Manchester to the north. Residents on both sides of the river would team up with neighbors and have two cars; one on each side of the bridge.
In the spring of 1969 the state relocation assistant expressed concern over the re-location of some 37 Hudson falmilies resulting from bridge construction. Many of these were families of 1 or 2 people living in apartments in the 20th Century Complex. The average rent paid by these families for a three room apartment was $16 per week. Comparable housing for a comparable amount of money did not exist in Hudson. The closest they could get for decent and safe conditions were going for $25 per week; over a 50% increase. The zoning ordinances of Hudson encouraged the construction of better homes without considering the needs of low cost housing.
By June 1969 the state offered $158,000 for the 20th building including the 20th century market. $38,000 for the purchase of a building on Webster Street, adjacent to the 20th Century which was used as a laundromat.
Construction was awarded to Cianchette Brothers of Maine and work on the new bridge began in July 1969 with forms for the first pier on the Nashua side by the construction The bridge was slated for completion September 1970. Meanwhile the Taylor Falls bridge to the south continues to be the work horse for traffic between the two communities.
In October 1969 we would see the end of the 20th Century store at the bridge in Hudson. On October 8 there was the ‘Sale of the Century”; designed to empty the store of all items as the building was scheduled for demolision within a few days. A new store at the 20th Century Shopping Center (now 102 Plaza) on the Derry Road was being readied. The “Welcome to Hudson, NH” sign which sat atop the building was removed. In less than two weeks the 20th Century building was gone.
September 1970 the Veterans Memorial Bridge opened for two-way traffic. State and local officials were present on September 16 for a ribbon cutting ceremony. Mrs. Georgianna Manter, a 99 year old resident of Londonderry was given the honor of cutting the ribbon. She had outlived all previous bridges. She had driven a horse and buggy over the wooden bridge and driven an auto over each of the later bridges. Finally our traffic needs no long depended on the old, crumbling concrete bridge.